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Stoyan Todorov December 20, 2023 3 min read
Court Says Valve Must Repay $15K to Gamer over Loot Boxes
A court in Austraia has ordered the publisher and developer of video games to pay back $15,000 (€14,000) to a player who spent the money on opening loot boxes
The case continues the ongoing debate about whether or not loot boxes constitute gambling and how they should be regulated. The court, though, has recognized loot boxes as a form of gambling, and this is doubly important as it would contribute to setting a legal precedent and be used in other similar cases.
Spent on Counter-Strike, Money Is to Be Returned
The plaintiff spent $15,000 on in-game purchases in the popular video game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, owned and published by Valve. According to the gamer’s lawyers, loot boxes were a form of gambling and thus violated Austrian gambling laws which mandate that any such activity must be regulated by the government, therefore making their client entitled to reimbursement.
Valve has been known to comply with court requests and has treated the matter of loot boxes and in-game cosmetics with the utmost seriousness, especially in the wake of a class-action lawsuit in 2016 that accused the company of promoting gambling through its games to children.
Padronus and Salburg, the plaintiff’s law firm, cautioned that any attempts on the part of Valve to appeal the decision would most likely result in a loss, as a similar against Electronic Arts, another video gaming giant, and its FIFA franchise, have been won.
The law firm’s managing director, Richard Eibl, offered a brief comment, reflecting on the implications for Valve’s business in the country. Much like the Netherlands and Belgium, Austria may become another place where the sale of loot boxes poses more headaches than it’s worth the trouble.
Eibl predicts that the present case would cost Valve more in sales in Austria. He also noted that the judge who oversaw the case was familiar with Counter-Strike, the game franchise owned and published by Valve, which was at the heart of the class-action lawsuit several years back.
The latest ruling indicates that Austria is unlikely to treat loot boxes as anything but a form of gambling, or at least there seems to be a very strong argument in favor of limiting the reach of such in-game purchases.
A European Issue Without Clear Path to Resolution
As a matter of fact, the European Union is similarly looking into the matter and there is talk about standardized regulation that could settle the debate about the true nature of loot boxes. Disparate opinions though may get in the way, as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria are tougher on these digital goods.
Austrian lawmakers from the People’s Party and the Greens are working on legislation that would seek to regulate loot boxes in a more sustained and clear matter, hopefully leading to less hesitation on the part of courts, consumers, and video game developers and publishers about what loot boxes are. The United Kingdom has stopped short of calling loot boxes gambling, however.
Other jurisdictions are also following in the same footsteps, with Germany discussing the issue more actively. The Greens in the country have been similarly concerned with the matter of loot boxes, a lucrative business that is not fully understood.
These attitudes will certainly add pressure to game developers and force them to think more carefully about what a very successful and lucrative business model is otherwise.